When Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song opened in 1971, the moviegoing public thought it was in for another crime drama, albeit one written, directed, produced, financed, and scored by its star, Melvin Van Peebles. But to everyone's surprise, the violent tale of a studly black criminal on the lam heralded something big -- the birth of indie black cinema. A series of similar flicks followed, ranging from the innovative (Foxy Brown, Shaft) to the regrettable (Dolomite and Disco Godfather), and generations of black filmmakers were (and still are) inspired to make movies the Van Peebles way. In tribute, Melvin's son Mario set out to re-create his dad's struggles and triumphs with the inspired-by-true-life and gathering-monster-buzz Baadasssss! It opens today at the AMC Kabuki, 1881 Post (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $6.50-9.50; call 922-4262 for show times or visit www.baadasssss.com.
In our college years we used to have parties with indoor fireworks fights and giant group baths and nude bicycling trips around town, so we know a great bash when we're at one. And some of the best local fetes we've been to were held at the Center, a place inclusive enough to attract a delightfully broad spectrum of folks, from gnarly punk rock dykes to earnest old-school queers to preening young twinks. See for yourself tonight when "The Q Ball" celebrates the beginning of both Pride Month and the National Queer Arts Festival with a hefty slate of performances (including a tribute to "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" disco king Sylvester!) and an exhibition of queer-themed art starting at 6 p.m. at the Center, 1800 Market (at McCoppin), S.F. Admission is free; call 334-0722 or visit www.sfcenter.org.
"It is not easy being a female female impersonator, or a female impersonator impersonator," riffed the all-knowing CNN.com way back in 2000. At the time, the Faux Queen Pageant was fairly new (it's now a ripe old 9), and though it's no longer the oh-that-wacky-San-Francisco flavor of the month, the phenomenon is alive and biting (see the recent movie Connie and Carla if you don't believe us). This year, the oversize tiara is passed from last year's best woman dressed as a man dressed as a woman, Crickett Bardot, to the lucky lady whose fake tits and false butt are the biggest drag of 2004. Real drag queens show up, too, so that the performers have something to measure their shticks against. It's all in good fun, benefits the Women's Community Clinic, and features a live performance by the glammy Poisin Jett Gunz, beginning at 8 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10-25; call 255-0333 or visit www.klubstitute.com.
Once every eight years, twice, and then not again for a hundred years: That's how often Venus crosses visibly between the Earth and the sun, an event known as the Transit of Venus. The planet appears as just a little blot high-tailing it across the broad, bright face of our local star, but the event is pretty important -- historians have only recorded the transit six times since humans have been able to see it. A team of scientists is in Athens, Greece -- one of the two places in the world from which the transit is visible (it can't be seen here) -- this weekend, and members will send images of the celestial arc back to San Francisco via a live Webcast. Roving astronomers will be on hand to explain what's going on, and there will also be hands-on science activities as well as Greek-inspired music, dance, and desserts. The transit party starts at 8:30 p.m. at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Admission is free-$12; call 397-5673 or visit www.exploratorium.edu.
Take Calvin Trillin, who's funny, and the state of the world today, which isn't; add the highly knowledgeable host of TV's The Tim Russert Show and microwave on high for 10 seconds. Turn the whole thing out onstage, live, and we're betting that the result is not only something you'll enjoy consuming, but also a dish positively swimming in intelligent observation. (Apologies for the food metaphor, Mr. Trillin.) Tim Russert, also the moderator of Meet the Press and an author himself, joins the New Yorker staff writer and inveterate foodie for this discussion. We hope they'll talk about Trillin's new book, Obliviously on He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme (here's a tidbit from a piece called "A Sissy Hawk Cheer": "All-out war is still our druthers --/ Fiercely fought, and fought by others"), but the topic at hand is Russert's new book, Big Russ and Me: Father and Son, Lessons in Life. The conversation begins at 8 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin (at Geary), S.F. Admission is $18.50; call 776-4580 or visit www.cityarts.net.
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